Journalists in Kent are fighting to overturn a Twitter ban which was brought in for media organisations covering an election count.
Paul Francis, political editor at the KM Group, said media organisations had been barred from using social media at next week’s count for the Police and Crime Commissioner election in the county.
He said the ban had come from the returning officer for the election, Nadeem Aziz, who is chief executive of Dover District Council, who said in instructions to media organisations that the use of social media was “strictly prohibited”.
Editorial director Ian Carter is now writing to him to object to the ban and ask for it to be overturned so Paul can report fully from the count on 16 November, the day after the election.
The council says it is not preventing journalists from using social media to report the results but said mobile phones were not allowed to be used on the floor of the count.
Paul said: “We understand that there’s no legal force behind such a ban although there’s an issue around the secrecy of the count, which the returning officer is required to police.
“There’s an issue about being able to update people about what is happening. It is just standard practice to issue breaking news through social media.
“It is going to make our job much more difficult if it remains in force. People who would normally follow reporters on social media networks are not going to be able to find out what is happening in the election.
“It just seems totally at odds with the general move towards accepting it as part and parcel of the tools that journalists use. It seems a bit draconian to us.”
The count is taking place at 13 different council offices across the county but it is believed the ban applies at each one because the returning officer is in charge of the whole election.
A spokesman for Dover District Council said: “Dover is not banning social media, like Twitter, as a means of reporting the election count.
“The Dover Returning Officer is advising that with the use of any mobile or communication devices due regard must be given to the statutory notification of secrecy requirements.
“Therefore, on the floor of the count itself (Connaught Hall), mobile phones or other communication devices must not be used because this may interfere with the smooth running of the count. Photography is also prohibited in the count area to protect the secrecy of ballot.
“However, television and other cameras will be allowed in restricted areas, along with all media, during the count and will be supervised. These restrictions follow the general restrictions we impose for any election.
“This does not in any way prevent communication of results, using social media, as such information is published in the Dover Town Hall, or interviews with candidates/agents as requested by media organisations.”